Friday, March 27, 2009

Gloria’s options

She has been president of the country for eight years, two months and four days. No one other than Ferdinand Marcos has presided over the nation’s continuing misery longer than Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, daughter of the man Marcos defeated in the elections of 1965.

In her first three years, five months and nine days of the term to which Joseph Ejercito Estrada was elected in 1998, she had survived several crises of corruption. First was the IMPSA sovereign guarantee extended by her through a Department of Justice opinion, where seven million dollars allegedly changed hands, under the table. Two million dollars of such unexplained monies were traced to a Swiss bank by Swiss federal authorities. The money trail was furnished the Office of the President. The Ombudsman slept for years on the case. Finally, last year the Ombudsman filed a case against the then Secretary of Justice, a case that the Sandiganbayan, protective of “due process” for the accused, dismissed. Clearly the Ombudsman filed a case meant to be lost.

She was accused by Pacifico Marcelo of wanting to take over his telecoms company, 55% or so of it, in exchange for upholding his franchise. Her own Assumption friend and palace confidante, who came from a family of honest genes, was appalled at the display of power for corruption so early. But Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was protected in the Senate by Joker Arroyo. Marcelo fled on a slow boat to China. The Assumption friend died of illness later.

The new management of the Public Estates Authority appointed by her took over an almost finished project of the deposed president, the yet to be named “central boulevard” that was parallel to congested Roxas Boulevard which leads to the international airport. From 650 million pesos, the cost of the project instantly ballooned to 1.1 billion pesos, half a billion more, explained away as for re-scraping the foundation of a portion of the 2.2 kilometer boulevard, plus landscaping and lighting. Half a billion pesos scandalously more. She found little scandal though. She is so proud of it she had it named after her father, Diosdado Macapagal, the once-remembered “poor man from Lubao”, and short bridges spanning sewerage outfalls are named after mother, and grandfather. It is the most expensive boulevard in the universe, meter for meter. Ask Guinness. Or Ripley.

Panfilo Lacson exposed the shady money laundering activities of one Jose Pidal, using the bank secrecy act to transfer monies to a fictitious account named after an ancestor from Iloilo. Who was Jose Pidal? Weeks later, a nervous middle-aged man heretofore unknown except in Negros and the joints of San Francisco during the martial law era, stepped up to the plate and claimed he was Jose Pidal, dubious signatures and all. Again, Joker Arroyo came to the succor of the First Family, and upheld the alleged Jose Pidal’s “right to privacy”. Curiously, records now hidden by the Bureau of Internal Revenue show that in the years when Jose Pidal earned hundreds of millions, his income tax payment was an amazingly low ten or so thousand pesos each year. The alleged Jose Pidal is now a congressman representing the descendants of the benighted sacadas of his family haciendas, but now he is “proudly”, Ignacio Arroyo y Tuason, chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of the Bought.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, with Rizal’s monument as witness, declared before fooled and relieved people that she would no longer run for election, in order to slay the “divisiveness” of which she was a part. Eight months later, before her cabalens in the now decrepit Centennial auditorium in Clark, whose airport she also named after her papa Dadong, she declares she would seek re-election.

What followed was a campaign unrivalled in the breadth of shameless spending of government resources, from Road Board funds to military funds suspected to have been “converted” by a general now in prison, and whose family now languish in American jails, and of course, the infamous Jocjoc Bolante fertilizer scam.

She was proclaimed by Congress, “winning” by more than a million votes over the king of Philippine movies. Everyone thought the king lost because the opposition could not unite behind him, and he had a hopelessly disorganized electoral operation. And so for about a year, people grudgingly accepted Gloria, while FPJ sulked into anonymity, until unfortunate death took him away six months after he “lost”. On June 6, 2005, her own press secretary pre-empted the discovery of a taped conversation between Gloria and a shady character known as “Garci”, unfortunately a commissioner of elections under the equally shady Benjamin Abalos. In those conversations, apparently tapped by ISAFP to ensure Garci made no double-cross, she was heard asking him to ensure she wins by no less than a million margin, at one point muttering, “yung dagdag…yung dagdag”.

Ten members of her cabinet resigned a month later, unconvinced about the sincerity of her televised “I am sorry”. Cory, bishops and civil society asked her to resign, but was saved at the last moment by the reluctance of her Vice-President as well as Lakas stalwarts FVR and Joe de V. An impeachment case was lodged in the House of Representatives, thwarted months later when the chamber was converted into her “House of the Bought”.

On February of 2006, during the anniversary of Edsa One, soldiers led by Scout Rangers Regiment Gen. Danilo Lim tried to launch a massive withdrawal of support, thwarted only by the clumsiness of believing that others with stars on their epaulets understood what honour and patriotism meant. Lim, along with Marine General Miranda and several others, are now in military jails, awaiting court martial proceedings that have taken the longest time. She survived, and how!

Meanwhile, the stealing goes on, as brazen as brazen could ever be. Even the World Bank was appalled, such that it blacklisted contractors who always win, courtesy of the corrupt DPWH and protectors in higher places. An “immoderately greedy” scheme to earn 200 million dollars in “tongpats” was foiled only when Panfilo Lacson delivered a privilege speech denouncing the shameless ZTE-NBN broadband deal which was first exposed by a losing proponent, Jose de Venecia III, son of the Speaker of the House of the Bought, soon decapitated because he could not control a “wayward” son whose scruples were assailed by the awesome greed. The drama of the Senate hearings kept the entire nation in tenterhooks, while they saw a “commissioner”, no less than the Comelec chair, Abalos, nervously twisting in the wind of his own lies. Then a coward, Romulo Neri, invokes “executive privilege” to cover up the whole truth about a mysterious presidential visit to China while her husband lay in almost fatal state, and a signing of an agreement in the wee hours, like “a thief in the night”.

Thereafter, another witness, Jun Lozada, Romulo Neri’s fix-it guy, is abducted at the international airport, taken for a joy ride that could have been fatal had it not been for an alert media. Once more, civil society called for her resignation. But she did not budge. Another impeachment complaint was thrashed, courtesy of her House of the Bought. By the votes of “her” associate justices, Neri’s executive privilege was upheld, and the concealment of truth in the guise of “national interest” has become the lay of the land. To say it is “the law”, because what the Court decides is law, is to accept infallibility from a bunch of incompetents or the intentionally blind, likelier both.

Under her amoral watch, all the institutions of government and formal democracy have been destroyed. The legislature is a pathetic parody of checks and balance, with only a handful of senators and another handful of party-list progressives having the courage of their convictions. The rest are either cretins or bought, many of them, both.

The judiciary is for sale, but for certain rare exceptions, including a Chief Justice who valiantly tries to stem the tide. And the biggest buyer almost always leads to the stinking palace beside the stinking river. Quasi-judicial bodies such as the Commission on Elections have become commercial houses, apart from being a seasonal purveyor of voting fabrication. Another quasi-judicial body, the Securities and Exchange Commission has been quietly commercial likewise, until Mar Roxas and Philip Piccio unearthed their collusion with a big-time crook with big-time connections behind a Ponzi scheme called Legacy. The Bangko Sentral, upon which reposes the fiduciary trust of the benighted land, is likewise compromised.

The military is for sale, honour seemingly thrown out of the window. Some of their generals were bought along with Hello Garci, while promotion to higher rank has become a function of blind loyalty and the willingness to bow to an illegitimate commander-in-chief. Ditto for the police. Values learned at the Philippine Military Academy are conveniently waylaid, because the polity is ruled by lying, cheating and stealing. (I almost threw up when SND Gilbert Teodoro recently addressed the cadets of the Academy, and exhorted them “not to tolerate lying, cheating and stealing”. Hello? What of your president, whose endorsement you seek for your presidential dreams?)

Even the religious institutions are compromised. A Jesuit priest is oblivious to all the chicanery as he partners with a pseudo-ideologue in upholding their queer dogma of justified killings in the altar of national security. They hardly flinch while extra-judicial killings occur left and right, and the country has become, under their combined amoral watch, as the most dangerous peace-time country in the world. Beaten to the distinction only by strife-wracked Somalia, Colombia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Iraq. What a country!

Not to forget our bishops, oh, our lords of grace! When the conscience-stricken cabinet members who later became the Hyatt Ten asked her in the wake of Hello Garci to “save her government” by exiling Mike Arroyo and firing Ephraim Genuino of his and her Pagcor, she acceded to the first, but no, no, no, no, no to Genuino. “He takes care of the bishops for me”, she said without batting an eyelash. But then again, members of the same group once heard her say, during those critical days, “I am beyond shame”.

The economy is supposed to be her ace. She is after all a textbook economist, a professor at that. But in the years preceding the 2004 elections, she racked up the national debt several times over, and after she was “elected” by Garci and her generals, she imposed a “comprehensive tax reform program” (read that as E-VAT) on helpless citizens so they could pay for her over-borrowing, and “save” the moribund economy she herself created. It was indeed saved, acquiring for her dubious international distinction, and making the economy “grow” by figures she crows about at every opportunity. But the human misery index keeps growing, and poverty is hardly addressed. Basic services go to pot, from health to education. Cronyism and regulatory capture of the domestic economy have come back with a vengeance, and the same old faces who were cozy with Marcos are now cozier with Papa Dadong’s little daughter.

Poverty and hopelessness have been kept from exploding in a society of extreme contrasts simply because an escape valve allows the miserable to go on a diaspora towards greener pastures in parched deserts or dreary cultures. They have become the new vaca lecheras (milking cows), whose annual dollar remittances keep their families and extended kin alive, and the local economy register consumer-led growth, buying mostly, imports from Yi-wu and Shenzen, Thailand and Indonesia.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has survived most every threat to her political survival by the sheer combination of nimble brinkmanship, tough personal decisions, and transactions with crucial sectors such as the military generals, Church bishops and other religious leaders, legislators, local government leaders, business oligarchs, even “bought” media. She has done all these through the absolute amorality of “lying, cheating and stealing”. There are no limits, moral or real, to what she is capable of, and willing to do for continued power and the largesse that she and her family can get with it.

The transactions have also led to governance held hostage by selfish interests, from legislators craving far more than their usual pork, to positions for incompetents out for quick bucks, to a bureaucratic leadership led by appointees also out for quick bucks, especially as the constitutional deadline of 30 June, 2010 draws nearer and nearer. As that deadline approaches, both Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her circle of power dread the coming of reckoning.


knowell good said...

Hindi na ako nagugulat sa mga resulta ng mga survey na ang Pilipinas ang pinaka- corrupt na gobyerno sa buong Asia o baka nga sa buong mundo.

Bakit kanyo?

Aba,eh, kabikabila ang mga eskandalong kinasasangkutan ng ating mga lider ng pamahalaan,may ZTE, WB road project, hello Garci, Euro Generals, Alabang Boys, Legacy at iba pa na kung ating iisa- isahin ay baka magkulang ang espasyo ng ating kolum.
Pero, bakit nga ba nagkakaroon ng suhulan o mga under the table negotiations sa ating gobyerno? O, kahit sa mga pang-araw araw na gawain sa ating kapaligiran.

Kung mapapansin natin ang suhulan ay nagsimula noon pa ng si Eba sa paraiso ay alukin ng matandang ahas ng karunungan kapalit ang pagkain sa ipinagbabawal na prutas at doon ay nakita natin na ang pagtanggap ng suhol ay may kaparusahan sa dahilang ang mag-asawang Adan at Eba ay pinalayas ng Diyos sa paraiso.

Sa panahon natin ngayon na talamak na ang korapsyon sa paligid, magmula sa pinakamataas na lider ng ating bansa hanggang sa mga Barangay Tanod, maiisip nating meron pa bang taong hindi tumatanggap ng suhol?

Isang nagdudumilat na katotohanan ang kasagutang "wala na."

Naaalaala ko tuloy yung isang patalastas sa telebisyon na kung saan ay inaabutan ng french fries nung tatay ang anak sa ilalim ng mesa habang tinatanong kung sinong mas mahal nung anak, kung yung tatay o yung nanay.

Ganyan na ba ang ating kultura?

Ang suhulan ba ay nagsisimula na maging sa loob ng tahanan?

Sa panahong ito, hindi mo na mauutusan ng basta ang mga mga bata kung hindi mo bibigyan ng upa o bayad. Ang mga estudyanteng tamad mag-aral ay nagbabayad na lang sa kanilang mga guro ng para sa Special Projects o kung hindi man ay pinabibili na lang ng wall clock o pintura na gagamitin sa paaaralan.

Sa paaralan dapat nagmumula ang tunay na edukasyon, subalit maging sa loob nito ay napasok na rin ng korapsyon.

Gayundin sa simbahan.

Naalala ko, minsan ay nagsabi ang namayapang Cardinal Sin, na " kahit sa demonyo manggaling ang pera ay kaniyang tatanggapin upang may magamit na pera ang simbahan ".

Kanino pa maniniwala ang tao na bawal ang tumanggap ng suhol kung ang mga puno ng pamilya, mga lider ng pamahalaan, mga guro at maging mga pari ay tumatanggap ng suhol?

Kapag eleksyon, may mga sumisigaw ng " Kunin ang pera, iboto ang kursunada!"

Paano natin masisisi ang mga pulitiko na magnakaw gayung tayo ang unang tumanggap ng pera noong nakaraang halalan.

Paano natin sila pupunahin?

Eh, kung sagutin tayo ng, "Bayad ka na kaya wala ka ng pakialam!"

Kung minsan, tama rin ang mga sinasabi ng mga pilosopo sa kanto na "walang pulitikong magnanakaw kung walang botanteng matatakaw."

Sa totoo lang, ang mga iyan ay tumakbo na walang "plataporma" kundi plata (read: pilak, pera) at porma (read: popularidad) kaya hindi natin sila masisisi.

Tayo ang nagkulang, nabulag tayo sa kinang ng salapi at kislap ng kanilang kasikatan.